Chinese Copy Cats 1: How do I teach my lil ones to write 我 and more?

Firstly, I am far from being a Chinese expert as you can read in my background post. Quite the opposite is true. Nontheless, I figured out the following on how to teach my kids by using Charlotte Mason’s principles. It is tedious at the beginning, but in time, I witnessed my eldest grow in His writing abilities and helped increased his vocabulary in a meaningful way. For a better understanding of Charlotte Mason’s method, pls read the section on point 3.Writing in this post first.

I had struggled to teach my eldest initially. Simply just learning ONE Chinese Character we need to know the labels for EACH Stroke and still need to know the proper ORDER of which stroke comes next! I was like ARRgghHH! Just hit and go method won’t work. Even after thinking through what meaningful words I want him to learn, I had to figure out how to teach his unsteady hands the smooth strokes of Chinese writing. Just drilling him to write freehand proved disastrous. Why? Trying to teach him one word even a simple word with 3 strokes, because of the distinct strokes, it needed to be executed in decent accuracy for a character to take form. Then it hit me that my expectation of him to perform wasn’t realistic. I was determined to find a solution. I ditched my 20mins of frustrated regime and did the below.

I began by devoting each day to spend just 5mins or even less (for beginners) to help my child learn the proper strokes in its sequential order. I start with the Chinese website animation word which gives the proper order of strokes and I teach aloud labeling each stroke as he learns it by In the Air practices. Once he manages this In the Air practices aloud confidently, we then proceed to the next step. This may vary from child to child. My second one took one day (5mins) to learn while my eldest took slightly longer.


After my child is able to say aloud the correct labels 名称 and order of strokes 笔画, we then proceed to the copying part.

笔画 撇横竖钩提斜钩撇点
名称 撇、横、竖钩、提、 斜钩、撇、点

I did my own word with coloured markers to differentiate the various strokes and labeled 1-7 for the sequences. Slipped the two pieces of paper into the transparent folder to make my own erasable board. This greatly reduce the waste of paper and efforts of erasing, not to mention it provides a free from pencil marks ‘page’.  It also goes with CM’s method on not having the child remember ‘erroneous’ image of how a word should be written. She believes that a child should only write accurately so as not to allow the brain to learn the incorrect word/image. In other words, the child will benefit only when he writes accurately as the brain will thus register the excellent writing he copies. This is preferred over practising many times a poorly executed word and then having to relearn the correct way.



Each time my child writes the incorrect order of stroke, e.g. did stroke 1,2 and 4, he has to erase and start over immediately. At the same time, if he writes illegibly, like the below where the second stroke- 横, was not straight, he had to erase and retry until he gets the whole stroke sequence 笔画 and 名称 labels accurately. J did this practice for the next day and he was able to continue for more than 10mins. He was motivated to do the blank box without help on the second day.


This was his I think 5th attempt before he wrote a decent one as seen below. My eldest had to have a few days of practice (5-10mins session only) before he could do the blank box practice. Now Please note that ALL these are done with a gentle, encouraging but also firm spirit. If I sense any frustration from my child, I would gently but firmly encourage him to practice for another 2-3 more times before stopping. By doing so, I find this stretches his attention span and increases his willingness to learn amidst ‘hardship’. I do not stop immediately upon his first signs of frustration neither do I force him to go on for another mindless 5mins provoking him to anger. (I learnt it the hard way from no.1)


This blank box exercise is slightly more challenging.The key to success I feel lies in the vigilant act of correcting each stroke before going to the next. For example, I made J erase the entire word because his second stroke was crooked. So he did 撇、横 .  撇、横 for a few times until I saw that it was decently executed then he proceeds to the third and fourth stroke and so on. If halfway, he doesn’t get the 5th stroke right, he erases and redo from the beginning. It is tedious, but necessary for excellent execution. That’s why at this stage, if 5mins is up, we try again the next day until he gets the hang of it and can confidently write on paper without errors. This is what I mean by the CM principle.


On the Third Day, he was ready to write after only practising once. I then demonstrated again the order of strokes and asked him to say aloud the proper labels of each stroke. 撇、横、竖钩、提 、斜钩、撇、点. By now, he would be very proficient in labeling the strokes. This took only less than 10mins and we proceeded to do other lessons. He was elated with his work and was rewarded with a sticker.


By the second word practice, he gets the procedure and is able to execute his practices much faster and more accurately.


The below is his 7th Chinese word and he is ready to copy more than one word. By the way, I did not randomly give him words to copy write. As a family of believers, we teach them mainly using the Word of God (the Bible). I would think and pray through what verses would be most suitable for each child to write especially pertaining to their character (according to their level of maturity) and let them learn their languages (both English and Chinese) from the Holy Bible. This is in terms of their standard daily reading and copy works. We trust that God’s words are living and a double edged sword able to teach their hearts and minds. As they learn the different languages, they also get to grow in spirit and in truth. My next post will give details on how I use mainly two Chinese Websites for my teaching and learning.  A last post on this series will show you what Chinese Bible verse J had written within 6 days of constant teaching for 5-15mins per session.


As shared before, I may not be proficient in Mandarin, but I found this method of learning and practising pretty effective for both boys. What I am looking for in learning the language is the quality of learning over the quantity of monotonous writing practices which I used to do as a child. With this approach, I find my boys are very keen to learn how to write and able to retain what they have learnt despite only having to write ‘once’ on paper accurately and excellently. It also helps to foster good handwriting habits.

Because they are copying the Word of God, they also learn the bible by heart and are able to remember majority of what they wrote. My eldest is enjoying the Chinese Bible better and we take turns to read a few verses at a time and I just read for him those words he doesn’t know. Or we find the words together online and learn what the new word that mummy also doesn’t know means and how it sounds.

You might want to use poems or other literature to support your language learning. At the end of it, i strongly feel learning has to be meaningful and applicable to life to ensure intrinsic learning to take root.

I hope you’ll enjoy this slow but meaningful journey of learning a language as much I do now!

Are there other methods you use to teach Mandarin? Please share! : )

Chinese Copy Cats 2 shares on the websites I use. Hop over here to continue.




  1. I bought this series of books called Sage Formula from Popular and find it useful for introducing the high frequency Chinese words to Sophie. They have a character, order of strokes and also simple stories to use the word. So far, Sophie enjoys the book and the stories, brings the words she learns to life as there is a context. Hope this helps 🙂

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